The wondeful Chris Green and I agreed to trade interviews last week, and in the hecticness of life, this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and answer his thoughtful questions. So here it is… the final interview meme….
1. You have an idea for a story with all of the “Ben” hallmarks except for one. It is touching, funny in all the right places, the ends of the scenes hit you like a hammer, and it says something about the world around us that needs to be said. It has, however, no speculative element whatsoever. Do you write the story as you see it in your head, or find a spec element to tease out, and why?
I have to confess that your hypothetical question is not all that hypothetical. I’ve occasionally written stories that adhere to present-day consensual reality, and I even went through a phase where that was most of what I wrote. My process for writing non-spec fic is pretty similar to my process for writing spec-fic – when it’s going well, the voice and the narrative usually carry me along. The nice thing about a speculative element, though, is that it often provides an easy way to shape the arc of the story and then draw it to a close. Sometimes I find it especially hard to bring the non-spec stories to a close in a way that feels satisfying. I’m finishing one up a non-spec story now, and I feel pretty good about it, but there’s a story within the story that features a zombie musical, so that might be cheating….
2. Is there magic in your world? Does a street shimmer like a pool and ask you to include it, or does a happy place seek contrast with one of ties and fiscal avalanche and make you make your own magic?
A bit of both. There’s definitely magic in my world, and on the good days I see and feel it all around me – even on Wall Street. Other days, the grind of the New York subway is so oppressive it’s hard to even make my way to work in the morning. Those days the world feels decidedly less magical. Yet subways keep showing up in my stories, so I guess I manage to find magic in that, too. (Also I am probably drawn to the subway as an obvious symbol of the unconscious world, etc.)
3. What is the single most important writing lesson you learned at Clarion South? (No cheating and going the “family of writers” route. Writing lesson only, please.)
I had the rather embarassing lesson that I need to not allow my perfectionism to interfere with my work. Not just in the obvious, stop-editing-endlessly way, though there’s that, too. I have real trouble allowing myself to fuck up in my life, and at Clarion I realized that same neurotic tendency spills over into my stories – I have trouble letting my characters fuck up, too. Which makes for, like, incredibly bad fiction. Since then I’ve been working diligently to humiliate my characters as often as possible.
4. Did your trip to Australia show you another culture, or another side to the culture you already live amongst?
Oh, dear. I think I’m going to channel my partner here (he’s an academic) and ask, “What is culture?” I definitely had the sensations of being in a new place – the miscommunications, the moments of embarassment, the excitement of realizing something I hadn’t thought about before. But those moments were not nearly as frequent as in, say, Greece or China, or other non-English-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking places where I arrived with very little knowledge of the language, which is such a huge factor. Honestly, the visit to Australia was a bit overshadowed by the imagined worlds my classmates took me to. (Though, I do love Australia and can’t wait to go back!)
5. What would you like Ben Francisco’s legacy to be, in nine words or less?
He had quite an imagination. And he was hottt.